HOUSE OF LEAVES by Mark Z. Danielewski

HOUSE OF LEAVES

KIRKUS REVIEW

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6th, 2000
ISBN: 0-375-70376-4
Page count: 704pp
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2000




NPR'S CANDIDATES FOR TOP SCI-FI/FANTASY:

Fiction AMERICAN GODS by Neil Gaiman
by Neil Gaiman
Fiction BEGGARS IN SPAIN by Nancy Kress
by Nancy Kress
Fiction CHILDREN OF GOD by Mary Doria Russell
by Mary Doria Russell
Nonfiction THE DISPOSSESSED by Jacqueline Jones
by Jacqueline Jones

MORE BY MARK Z. DANIELEWSKI

FictionTHE FIFTY YEAR SWORD by Mark Z. Danielewski
by Mark Z. Danielewski
FictionONLY REVOLUTIONS by Mark Z. Danielewski
by Mark Z. Danielewski

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionSILENCE ONCE BEGUN by Jesse Ball
by Jesse Ball
IndieSTORYTELLING by Constance Colon-Jones
by Constance Colon-Jones
IndieUNSETTLING by Vincent Macraven
by Vincent Macraven